The Man from Freshwater Farms

I met Rick Storre on two occasions. The first was when I visited Freshwater Farms to find a native-plant solution for my planter boxes that always looked like hell, stuffed with geraniums that never seemed to thrive. I entered the building and eventually a friendly man showed up. From the way he settled into his seat, I could tell this was going to be a long chat. It was. It was the kind of chat that takes place when one oldtime Humboldter encounters another.

We reviewed his parents and grandparents, and mine, and gossiped for an hour or so. It felt like being in Ireland, where purchases are never hurried. He suggested a certain type of huckleberry for my planters and I left with six of them.  Three died immediately  and I called him for advice. I went back to FF and he replaced them cheerily. Eventually I managed to kill all of them and went back to geraniums.

I must have passed by FF a thousand times since then, secure in the knowledge that there was a friendly and intelligent person within. Today I feel very empty inside. The house where the bodies were found is a few blocks from me and I feel violated. I lost an acqaintance. I can only imagine how his friends and family feel.

And I feel that I’m losing my town. I don’t recognize a Eureka where St Bernard’s Church is considered in a “bad neighborhood” or where people are murdered a short walk from my home. The people who are running for County or City offices had better have some ideas for change. Mental illness is perhaps the toughest issue facing our society and balancing the rights of the mentally ill with the rights of people like me who are supposedly sane is a conundrum for which all the answers are expensive. Necessary, but expensive.

All I know is that I feel empty. “And the sky is crying.”

Ripping Off A Farmers’ Market? Jail Is Too Good For This Guy

Like most of us, I don’t like crooks. Especially crooks who rip off the deserving. Rip off Larry Ellison? I don’t like it but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. But ripping off a farmers’ market? How low can you get? Really.

Well, it took an elected official to demonstrate how low. A Glendale city councilman is headed to jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the local farmers’ market over a number of years. Thank God they caught him but this is one of those cases that makes you start wondering if our justice system hasn’t overly restricted itself.  In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan-actually Gilbert-

“My object all sublime I shall achieve in time: to make the punishment fit the crime..”

I don’t know what punishment would fit this crime (a diet of rotten vegetables? ) but your submssions are welcome. We read about scumbags all the time but I know folks who sell at our farmers’ markets and I know how hard they work. Sorry for bending your ear, but this one really got to me.

 

Murder in the Cathedral- the Unthinkable, the Unacceptable

Back in the 1930’s when T S Eliot was writing his Nobel prize-winning play about the conflict between Henry II and his Archbishop, Thomas a Becket, a conflict that resulted in Becket’s death at the hands of four soldiers who may or may not have been carrying  out the King’s wishes, he picked a title that reflected the true horror of the situation. He called it “Murder in the Cathedral”.  A church or cathedral  is supposed to be a place of refuge. Unlike Becket, Father Freed was not murdered on the very altar, but for “cradle Catholics” like myself, the horror is palpable. I haven’t considered myself a Catholic since I was sixteen but you don’t have to be Catholic or Christian or religious in any vein in to be deeply disturbed by this crime and the death of an innocent man who by all accounts was a gift to the community.

Thank God there is a suspect in custody.  But we have already made the news on CNN and CBS and believe me,  there is no more efficient way to destroy the reputation of a city than a notorious murder.  Nor can we claim it’s the fault of the drug industry. No, this was an act of sheer evil, hard to comprehend but there it is. The candidates who seek office this year will all face the question: how do we combat evil in our midst while maintaining our civilization?

The Catholic Church is a huge and powerful organization which has been so poorly governed in recent years that systematic child abuse has been tolerated. That seems to be changing due to the refreshing candor of the new Pope and hopefully he will stay in office long enough to make some real changes. I will never be a Catholic again but I heart this Pope and while all the usual second-guessing and faultfinding with the police has already started, let’s think about the ways to honor Father Freed, the Pope and each other.  The New Yorker’s year-end cover was a cartoon of the Pope making snow angels. Religion should have a sense of joy. Hard as it may be, it is our job to reclaim that. Even us nonbelievers.

As for me, I’m leaving my Christmas lights up a few days longer than usual.  I think a lot of people are. They provide that sense of joy. We could use it this year. 

 

Welcome to Our City, Chief Mills

     Sometimes the consultants get it right. 

     The headhunters charged with finding us a new police chief- excuse me, I meant another new police chief- stated it correctly: “Eureka is unique, a rural area with serious urban issues.” Chief Mills is apparently going into this with his eyes wide open. And I guess it’s just a coincidence that the Chief is arriving just at a time when I feel my home town being taken away from me.

     I live a simple life. When I moved into my very average house in Cutten, all I demanded  was a good yard for dogs, closeby amenities like a grocery to minimize driving and  a sense of safety and security. Do I still have it? Not so much,  since a few months ago when a parolee from Oregon went on a rampage starting at Walnut and Redwood and smashed a few car windows before racing through my neighbors’ backyards before eventually being apprehended nearby.  Why he skipped my yard is a mystery.  Maybe he’s afraid of old dogs. All I know is, the tranquility is gone. 

     There was a time when I could walk my dog in Sequoia Park. Not any more. There are too many shady characters lurking along the pathways looking for a quick pickup or a drug deal. Some of them were involved in a shooting on Glatt Street the other day. But the real reason I can’t walk my dog there anymore is the huge number of unleashed or unsupervised dogs. The folks who enter the park on the Glatt Street side walk right past the sign advising that all pets must be on a leash. A large family approached me with a pit bull that was on a leash,  alright, but it was one of those extendable leashes and they thought it was just hilarious to let their dog growl and snap at my dog while letting it approach to within about half an inch. My dog was terrified and tried to get away. I ended up face down in the mud but managed to hang onto my dog. Then I had to listen to how sorry they were. I regret to this day I didn’t call the police but I was so shaken up I didn’t even get their license.

      So there’s assignment No. 1, Chief. Reclaim Sequoia  Park for us.  Instead of parking a black and white on W Street to catch those villains (like me) who don’t come to a complete stop at the corner, how about putting a black and white near the Glatt Street entrance?  A little deterrence there could do wonders. Let’s try it.  

     As I said, I live a simple life.  I shop at Winco at least twice a month but now that people are being carjacked in the Winco parking lot in broad daylight, it doesn’t seem as welcoming as it used to. Or as safe. Can you help us with ensuring folks can patronize our biggest grocery store without placing themselves and their kids in jeopardy? We’d sure appreciate it.

     I suppose you’ve heard about the series of spectacular car-pedestrian and car-motorcyle collisions.  Fifth Street is a death trap for pedestrians, especially those of us who actually try to use the clearly marked crosswalks, especially at the corner by Denny’s. When I took driving at Eureka High, they used to tell us that “pedestrians have the right of way in California”.  How about a little enforcement? It couldn’t hurt, could it?  I turn at the intersection of H and Hodgson nearly every day of my life.  I am usually impressed with the politeness  of the other drivers but that wreck the other day hit pretty close to home.  It’s sobering to think that the only thing between you and sudden death is a split second of someone  else’s attention. A stoplight or an officer nearby would do wonders. 

     So Chief, we’re glad to have you here,  and glad that you’re going to go through with this career change although it must have been disconcerting to learn that the fellow who hired you is moving on himself after only nine months on the job. When you need a break,  take a stroll through the Sequoia Park gardens.  One of your  predecessors and his wife have devoted thousands of hours to maintaining the flowers because the city can’t afford to. It’s that kind of town. 

     Welcome to Eureka .